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Fire Chief’s Performance Report Has Council Concerned about Response Times

By Erica Madison

On Tuesday Sept. 1, 2009, Alameda Fire Chief Dave Kapler’s report on the fire department’s service level standards, shows costs trump citizens well-being.

The report was requested by City Council after last month’s special meeting of the ARRA and CIC. During the meeting Council members Lena Tam and Frank Matarrese expressed concern over emergency safety standards mentioned in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Minimum Protection Initiative.

The meeting on Aug. 3, 2009, ended with council delaying the initiative and requesting more information on service standards.

Unfortunately, Fire Chief Kapler has only managed to highlight the problems with the current service level standards of Alameda County.

While it may take only five minutes for the first unit of a fire truck or engine to arrive at the scene of an emergency, it takes ten minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Council members were troubled after hearing the delay in ambulance response time.

“If we follow the county’s standards wouldn’t the person be brain dead [by the time an ambulance arrived]?”, asked Council member Lena Tam.

Kapler could only agree with her question. According to the Fire Chief’s report the brain begins to die after four minutes. He stated that the cost of arriving sooner was their only constraint.

“It all comes down to cost issues.” Said Fire Chief Kapler.

Fortunately, Kapler is proposing that the city change its own Fire Response standard to deal with the delay. A proposal will be submitted to the City Council during the next meeting.

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